Even the U.S. Secretary of Education has an opinion about the battle raging in Prince George’s County over school spending.
Arne Duncan, President Obama’s top education official, posted a blog on the Department of Education Web site Thursday morning, hours before the county council in the Washington, D.C., suburb will decide whether to dramatically or modestly increase property taxes to pay for an ambitious education budget — — or reject tax increases altogether.
Duncan makes a moral argument for funding schools equitably, saying investments like the one proposed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) are about fairness and access for all students regardless of their economic or social backgrounds. He cites Prince George’s County as an example of collective, courageous and bold action taken by educators and elected leaders across the country, siding with Baker and some school officials who believe a $133 million investment is necessary to improve student achievement in the county. Limited state funding and county property tax caps, Duncan writes, tax caps for having “squeezed tax-based contributions to their schools.”
“The approach is backed by community leaders and stakeholders who want to see their county flourish as neighboring counties have under new education efforts that support all students. Additional dollars could help increase per-pupil spendig, raise teacher salaries which lag behind those in nearby counties, and expand full-day pre-k programs,” Duncan writes.
Duncan’s post echoes the same arguments the Baker administration has been trying to make to taxpayers — with little success. The county executive walked back a double-digit tax increase Thursday in favor of a less aggressive funding plan. The county council is meeting at 1 p.m. to consider the budget proposal.
Inhis blog post, Duncan mentions James Madison Middle School in Upper Marlboro as an example of one Prince George’s County school that will see thousands of dollars more under Baker’s proposed budget.
“More equitable funding would allow the principal to hire a literacy coach and an 8th grade digital literacy instructor, to help ensure that every student becomes a strong reader, and can perform well in our technology-rich world, from computer-based tests, to the digital workplace,” he writes.
“It’s basic: no matter where they are – in Prince George’s County, in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in this country – kids should have access to challenging, high-level classes and technology, and teachers should have the resources they need to their jobs.”
See the full blog post here.